Book Launch: Japanese Tree Burial: Ecology, Kinship and the Culture of Death


Tree burial (樹木葬, jumokusou), a new form of disposing the remains of the dead in Japan, was initiated in 1999 by a Zen Buddhist temple in the northeast region of Tohoku. Unlike conventional cemeteries filled with ancestral gravestones, its graveyards are vast woodlands where newly planted trees and small wooden tablets inscribed with the names of the deceased mark the burial sites. Although varying in style and scale, over fifty cemeteries are now popularizing tree burial as an alternative mode of dealing with death in Japan.

This book, drawing from ethnographic research and comparative analysis, explores the phenomenon of tree burial by tracing its development and ecological advocacy as well as the socio-cultural conditions that motivate Japanese people to choose this practice. Conversely, the author examines the impact of tree burial on traditional views of death and the afterlife. He argues that tree burials and other non-ancestral grave systems have become a means of negotiating new social orders. Unwrapping its symbiosis of memorialization and environmentalism, the book demonstrates how tree burial fits with new ideas of ecology where the individual’s corporality nourishes the earth and re-enters the cycle of life in nature.

Date: 4 December 2014, 6:00pm
Venue: Daiwa Foundation Japan House, 13/14 Cornwall Terrace, Outer Circle, London NW1 4QP
Tel: 020 7486 4348
Organiser: The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation

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